Indianapolis Indians 4, Louisville Bats 2
The Indianapolis Indians made a sweep of the Louisville Bats tonight at Victory Field, taking all three games of this short series. Tribe starter Jeff Locke earned his 10th win of the season, pitching 6 shut out innings. RF Dallas McPherson had two key hits in the game, including what would turn out to be the game-winning home run.
Locke worked around at least one runner on base in 5 of his 6 innings — he did retire the side in order in the 3rd. Bats’ 3B Henry Rodriguez was the only batter to have Locke’s number, reaching base against Locke three times. In the top of the 1st, Rodriguez reached base when his grounder bounced off 2B Brock Holt’s glove for an error. Locke took care of that little annoyance by striking out the next batter, 1B Neftali Soto. Rodriguez led off the 4th with a single grounded through the hole and into left field. Locke left him standing on first base, as he retired the next 3 batters with a fly out and two strikeouts. In the 6th, Rodriguez hit the second of a pair of back-to-back singles, following 2B Chris Valaika’s lead off single. Locke handled that by getting Soto to bounce into an around-the-horn double play (5-4-3, 3B Anderson Hernandez, Brock Holt, and 1B Matt Hague), then finishing the inning with an easy grounder to second. The only other Louisville batters to reach against Lock were RF Cody Puckett, who lined a 2-out double into the left field corner in the 2nd (and was left on base), and C Brian Peacock, who worked a one-out walk in the 5th (same result).
Locke finished his evening with 4 hits and one walk over 6 innings, with 6 strikeouts. He threw 83 pitches (54 strikes).
The Tribe batters were having more success against Louisville’s starter Pedro Villarreal, who suffered the loss to drop his record to 3-11. SS Chase d’Arnaud and Brock Holt led off the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles. Unfortunately, d’Arnaud was picked off first base and thrown out trying to reach second. Holt stole second. but was left stranded there.
Dallas McPherson started a rally in the 2nd inning with his lead off single lined into right field. LF Brandon Boggs doubled, off the upper edge of the wall in left-center field. While the Bats were chasing down the ball, McPherson raced around the bags to score from first base, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead. 3B Anderson Hernandez followed with a grounder to second base, which would have likely been an infield hit anyway. But 2B Chris Valaika had trouble handling the ball, and Boggs scrambled around for another run scored from second base. After a fly out, Jeff Locke dropped down a perfect bunt in front of the plate. It was fielded by the Bats’ C Bryan Peacock, and Locke was out at first, but Hernandez was off and running with the pitch, and was running very aggressively. He reached third base before the Bats even knew what was going on. Unfortunately, that was as far as Hernandez could get, as another fly out ended the inning. Indians leading, 2-0.
The Indians put runners on in the 3rd — Holt’s second single and stolen base of the game — and in the 4th — a walk to Boggs and Anderson Hernandez’s second single. Holt led off the bottom of the 5th with his third straight single of the night, a liner up the middle. Moments later, with 2 outs, McPherson blasted a long and high fly ball heading down toward the right field corner. The ball sailed past the foul pole on the inside, then curved to the foul side in the picnic area beside right field. It was his second homer as an Indian, and his 14th for the year. Indians ahead, 4-0.
There was only one more Indians’ hit for the rest of the game — Anderson Hernandez’s third single of the night, grounded into center field. He was quickly erased in another around-the-horn double play. The Indians went down in order in the 7th and 8th.
Three Indians’ pitchers each took one inning on the mound after Locke was done for the night. Bryan Morris pitched the 7th, and retired the Bats in order. Logan Kensing took the 8th, and he ran in to some trouble. Pinch-hitter Felix Perez began the inning with a short loopy single over the third base area and into left field. A ground out followed, then a double by Valaika, which drove in Perez from second. Rodriguez moved Valaika to third with a sacrifice bunt, and Soto brought him in with a line drive single into left field. The Bats had cut the Indians’ lead in half, 4-2.
The Tribe was not about to let that bother them. Daniel McCutchen came on to pitch the top of the 9th. He retired three Bats in order, ending the game with a called third strike on Peacock.
The win, combined with a big loss for the Columbus Clippers (Toledo Mud Hens 14, Columbus Clippers 5), drops the Clippers to 13 games behind the Indians in the IL Western Division standings. It doesn’t matter much, since the Indians have already clinched the division pennant, but I don’t believe the Indians have had that much distance between themselves and the Clippers before now. There were a few days earlier when the Indians were 12 games ahead of Columbus, but I don’t think they hit 13 games ahead until now.
The Indians next play another 3-game series against the Columbus Clippers at Victory Field.
Indians’ Hitting Gems of the Game: Dallas McPherson’s two big hits, one to begin a rally and come around to score in the 2nd; the second was his 2-run homer, which gave the Indians the insurance runs they would eventually need.
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: Two plays by CF Alex Presley. In the top of the 2nd, Bat’s Willie Harris hit a long fly into the right-center field gap. Dallas McPherson, who was playing only his 5th game (ever) in right field, acknowledged that Presley was going to have to try for this one. Presley turned on the afterburners, racing toward the right-center field wall. He made a back-handed running catch on the track, then crashed into the wall — but held on to the ball — for the second out of the inning. That would have been at least a double f0r Harris, and he would have scored on the next hit, which was Puckett’s double. In the top of the 3rd, Presley made another running catch, this one coming in to short center field to catch a sinking line drive, ending the inning.
An army helicopter landed in center field shortly before the game, “dropping off” Indians’ chairman Max Schumacher and some other dignitaries. It’s hard to catch fly balls when you have to work around a helicopter.